Jeanette Winterson to pen a new memoir, horror novella

Fans of Jeanette Winterson’s debut novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, (or any of her dozens of books, really) may rejoice — Winterson is writing her first memoir, slated for publication by UK imprint Cape in Oct. 2011.

Fresh on the heels of a successful bout of writing for children, Winterson’s memoir will address her early years, which promises a story close to Oranges, published when Winterson was a young 26 years old. The title, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, is the question Winterson’s adoptive mother asked when Winterson came out as a lesbian and left home at 16. (Side note: what if every lesbian named their memoir with the response their mothers had when they came out? Mine would be But You’re The First Gay Person I’ve Ever Met!)

“Everyone gets bruised in the early journey of their life, and Jeanette’s journey was more difficult than most,” says Rachel Cugnoni, deputy publisher of Random House imprint CCV, who purchased the memoir based on its proposal. "She was adopted by a woman who was very charismatic but not the most obviously loving person, and that has had reverberations throughout her life. It’s no secret that she has struggled and had relationships which broke down. It’s something she addressed originally through fiction, but now she wants to strip it down a layer further."

The memoir comes after Winterson’s 50th birthday, which Cugnoni credits as impeitus for a “period of re-examination” for the fiction writer. Despite the bleak nature of Winterson’s upbringing in a Pentecostal home, Cugnoni believes readers will find the memoir uplifting.

Last week Winterson visited the annual international publishing festival, the Frankfurt Book Fair, to meet with the international publishers of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She spoke of the memoir still being a work in progress, and when asked about the assumed difficulties of revisiting one’s childhood, Winterson responded, “All writing comes from a place of discomfort and I’ve been through the real pain of these events a long time ago. I have distance from it now.”

In addition to memoir, Winterson is branching out into other genres and writing a horror novella for Hammer Films’ new publishing imprint. Hammer Films, a British horror film brand, has been around since 1934 but hasn’t made a splash in the last 30 years or so. They approached Winterson about writing a scary novella, to be the first book from their imprint. No word yet on the content, but seeing as Hammer Films’ most recent release was a delicious remake of the Swedish vampire flick Let The Right One In, one could hope that Winterson’s novella will be ripe with the supernatural.

Fans can look forward to sinking their teeth into this slice of horror next summer.

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